San Diego Chargers Weekly Regress Report: Where They Stand Headed into Week 12

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystNovember 21, 2012

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 18:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers reacts after a play against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 18, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 30-23.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

A 4-6 record isn’t bad if your team is scratching and clawing for every victory. Wins and losses are the measuring stick, but they don’t tell the whole story.

You won’t hear any coaches happy with a 4-6 record, but many teams would be happy to have four wins at this stage of the season. Other teams like the San Diego Chargers are contemplating a head coaching change at 4-6.

Team records can be deceiving, which adds another layer of complexity. The Chargers have won four games against three terrible teams. The conversation shifts if the four wins were against good teams. The Chargers are in that horrible place between good and bad. They can’t beat good teams and can’t lose (enough) to bad teams to get a good draft pick.

To have a shot at the wild card, the Chargers can’t lose again this season. The Chargers rarely have demonstrated the ability to beat a good team like the Baltimore Ravens and they also have the Steelers and Bengals on the schedule.


Primary Talking Point for Week 11

The fate of the head coach Norv Turner is pretty much sealed at this point and general manager A.J. Smith might get tossed out along with him. The real question in San Diego is what to make of the struggles of Philip Rivers.

Rivers is having his second down year in a row and he’s not performing like a franchise quarterback. Rivers shows signs of being his former self, but those moments are fleeting. The protection has been bad and Rivers’ weapons are also not as dangerous as they were prior to 2011, but those are pretty lame excuses.

Franchise quarterbacks are supposed to cover up for the sins of the offensive line and turn average offensive players into superstars. Rivers seems only capable of playing to the talent level of the players around him, which makes building a roster that can win the Super Bowl that much harder.

It’s an interesting, unique challenge and one that either Smith or a new general manager will have to tackle in the offseason.


Injury Outlook

Dante Rosario, Jared Gaither and Aubrayo Franklin missed Week 11. Tyronne Greene, Eddie Royal and Larry English were all injured in the 30-23 loss to the Denver Broncos.

An already weak offensive line missing two starters is a disaster waiting to happen. The Chargers should be concerned, but there’s not a talent like Gaither is sitting at home at this point in the season. There's not much the team can do.

The Chargers also missed Franklin anchoring the center of the defense last week. The defense played a solid game against Peyton Manning, but they would have preferred not to make it easy for the Broncos to just run out the clock by running the ball.

Rosario, Royal and English are all very replaceable, but losing special teamers and role players can have nasty trickle-down consequences.


Players on the Rise

Danario Alexander seems to be getting comfortable with the offense. Rivers is looking to Alexander more and more each week, and every week, Alexander takes advantage of his opportunities. In two games since becoming a starter,Alexander has been targeted 16 times, with 12 receptions, 291 yards and three touchdowns.  

Alexander might have even moved ahead of Malcom Floyd as Rivers’ favorite target, which is significant when you consider that Floyd is the team’s best offensive player according to ProFootballFocus.

Marcus Gilchrist was really impressive on defense and appears to finally be fulfilling his great potential. Gilchrist had a great day against Manning and was one of the only players to do so. Gilchrist along with Eric Weddle, Kendall Reyes and Donald Butler form a very nice defensive core to build on.

Fellow cornerback Shareece Wright also got into the action and played more snaps in Week 11 than he has at any point this season. The results of Wright’s return were generally positive, and he could continue to see more time unless Antoine Cason starts playing much better football.


Stat Trends – Offense

The Chargers didn’t boast a very good running offense coming into the game vs. the Broncos and things didn’t get any better with a banged-up Ryan Mathews carrying the ball. Mathews got up to 47 yards before the Chargers had to ditch the running game.

One thing fans and fantasy footballers will be happy about is the fact that Mathews carried the ball on 65 percent of the Chargers’ running plays. Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle combined for eight carries for six yards.  

After a 3-for-16 day converting on third down, the Chargers dropped five spots in third downs conversion percentage. The Chargers' struggles on third down have everything to do with their putrid pass blocking. The Chargers can’t pass block when the opposition is pinning their ears back, and no further evidence is required than Von Miller's three-sack performance. All three of Miller’s sacks came on third down.


Stat Trends – Defense

Facing Manning means the possibility of getting hurt through the air. The Chargers did a good job at slowing Manning down, but slowing down and stopping are two different things.

Manning completed just 59.5 percent of his passes, which is his second lowest completion percentage of the season. The result was the Chargers moving up the rankings in completion percentage allowed.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, Manning still figured out a way to get the ball into the end zone three times, and the Chargers dropped from 20th to 25th in passing touchdowns allowed.

Miscues by the offense and special teams gave Manning a short field far too often. Manning managed to make a play when he most needed to make a play, and the defense eventually cracked under the pressure.

A slight negative trend should be considered a victory after facing Manning, and with Gilchrist and Wright coming on strong, this pass defense may boast a significant improvement in the second half.


Outlook: Falling

The AFC West is basically a dead race after the Broncos won last Sunday. The wild card isn’t a much better option for the Chargers. It’s pretty much over before the fat lady sings.

The Chargers have no wins against a team above .500. The Chargers only have two wins since Week 2 and both came against the Chiefs. The Chargers are a mess and with a moderately tough schedule over the final six weeks, things could get worse.


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